Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Picture is Worth Too Many Words

My dad died almost sixteen years ago and left me this hulking orange, floor-to-ceiling metal shelving unit. He kept it in his office for years, and upon his death we found every Styrofoam cup he'd ever used and intended to use again, an impressive stack of report covers he'd kept when his business law students turned in the work they did for him at the local community college, and a diamond ring once worn by his mother, my mother, and thought to have been stolen, but was safely behind the orange doors the whole time.

Now that unit stores photo albums and pictures in frames I no longer want to display, but can't bring myself to pull from the frames and do something else with. The photo albums go back 49 years, all the way to my baby book, but by and large they are of my two children covering their well documented lives. There are also all the calendars I made, each month highlighting the events of that month, carefully cropped and coordinating scrap booking paper meticulously placed behind each one. You don't even want to know how many VCR converted to DVDs I have on shelves, featuring every single thing my kids did or ever thought of doing for the first 10+ years of their lives.

I nearly drove myself crazy keeping all that up for years. And years. And years and years.

Now I've got more time than I've ever had before, and I've all but stopped taking pictures. I think I took three total during the various Christmas celebrations. Taken maybe three or four since Christmas. They're still on the camera. No desire to print them out, put them in an album, and add them to the orange cabinet.

Of course there's the computer, and I do have hundreds of digital photos on there. Don't look at them or refer to them much, either.

We just had Easter. Every year my son, Rojo, has me hiding plastic eggs filled with his favorite candy (mini Reeses and Snickers) for weeks ahead of time. We talk about the Easter Bunny, Devohn, and how he'll get into the house, where he'll hide the eggs, where he lives, and the fact that he's like an uncle, or a cousin, or some such relative of Rojo's. We explore the familial connection ad nauseam. My husband, STM, and I had been at our church's Easter Vigil until way late Saturday night, and when Rojo bounded out of bed at 6:00 Sunday morning, it was all we could do to caffeinate before we had him start the search, I just never grabbed the camera.

The old me would have had the camera and camcorder all laid out ready to go. I would have made sure the batteries were charged. I would have made sure the camcorder had plenty of tape left. I would have assigned one to STM and I would have done the other one. We would have had our faces behind cameras the whole time, trying to get the right shot, and entirely missing the joy on the almost-sixteen-year-old's face as he found the eggs that Devohn had hidden.

I realized later that day as I was cleaning up the kitchen from the Easter dinner, that I'd subconsciously decided awhile ago to shut down the documenting of our days on film. I never go look at the old pictures, I don't even want to. It is actually traumatic. And as sweet as his face was, and as much as I was tickled to see him so happy, I don't really want physical reminders that he's not a typical teenager on Easter. It's great that he isn't, but it's painful that he's not, and I don't need to rub my own nose in it anymore.

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Carrie is a parent and advocate of a child with special needs and even more special gifts. She blogs at where this is pretty much her favorite topic. 


  1. Oh, Carrie. I chuckled as I read through this until I got to the last paragraph. For whatever reason, I think you did the right thing. I can't tell you how many times I insisted on documenting every last moment of an event to get home later and realize I hadn't actually experienced any of it first-hand, so the photos didn't give me the warm fuzzy reminder I had hoped for. You can't be reminded of something you didn't actually live in the first place.

    I love that you are living Rojo's life in real time with him now.